A Utah teenager faces up to 15 years in prison for his involvement in a home invasion last year.
16-year-old Cooper Van Huizen pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree felony robbery and his parents believed that he would be sentenced to 180 days in jail as part of the plea deal. During the May 7 sentencing hearing, however, District Judge Ernie Jones decided that the original punishment was not harsh enough and instead sentenced him to one to 15 years in prison.
“He’s 16 years old,” said Cooper’s father, Marc Van Huizen. “Some 16-years-olds are more mature than others, but Cooper is really soft and tender emotionally. He’s just a nice, sweet young boy, always has been. He’s not this rough-and-tough, wannabe street-wise little kid. We were completely shocked. We were amazed, [and] had I known what I know now, I would not have allowed my son to accept that plea deal. I’m the one who told him to do it. [I thought] we had the ability to put this all behind him.”
Cooper and a group of friends broke into a home late last year and robbed two people at gunpoint, looking for money and marijuana. The 16-year-old brought two of his father’s unloaded guns with him, and the other teens he was with used them to get the victims to hand over their posessions.
“As I look back on what I did, I recognize that I was reckless in trying to fit in with and please new people I did not really know,” said Cooper. “My judgment was impaired by my use of marijuana.”
The 16-year-old is currently being held at a maximum-security prison in a private cell so that other inmates, who are adults, cannot hurt him. The teen’s parents say they are scared for their son’s life and hope that appealing the decision will lead to a lighter sentence.
“He himself now has complete remorse and regret, forever being a part of that situation and he wishes he could take that day back,” said Marc Van Huizen. “The mistake that he made — the first ever he’s made in his life — was a big one.”
One 19-year-old involved in the incident has been sentenced to 180 days in jail already, while two of the other people involved in the robbery have yet to be sentenced.